I used to consider myself a fairly patient person.
After all, I used to teach ninth and tenth graders and I currently teach seventh grade – if that doesn’t demonstrate patience I don’t know what does.
And then I became a church starter.
Not with just any kind of church start, mind you. My wife and I did a “parachute drop” church start, moving to town where we knew no one.
Where we had no connections.
We were starting from zero, from nothing.
Now, we may have been new to church starting, but it’s not like we were wide-eyed ingénues.
Middle-aged, with grown children, we’d been around the block a time or six. Been part of businesses that failed and some that succeeded. I’d spent 25 years in education, both in public school and teaching adults in corporate settings. We weren’t members of the quick-fix, instant gratification crowd. We knew that good things take time to build.
We knew that planting a moderate-to-progressive church in an extremely conservative area would not be an easy – or quick – task. We knew doing a parachute drop is the slowest type of church start.
We’d done the research. We’d read the books. We’d talked to other church starters.
We knew it wasn’t going to be fast.
But knowing something intellectually isn’t the same as knowing it emotionally.
No matter how many times you hear the axiom that God works things out in His own perfect time, you’re not going to be ready when His time frame doesn’t match up with your timeline.
At least I wasn’t ready.
Bible studies for a year while we tried building a core team. But just when you think you’ve got a solid core started, one couple just sort of disappears and another backs away from the commitment. But you forge ahead. And you learn to be patient.
You send email after email, make phone call after phone call, trying to set up meetings to talk to local pastors and others about your innovative, wonderful, awesome new church. But apparently they don’t think your church concept is innovative, wonderful, or awesome because they never seem to call you back.
So you learn to be patient.
When you do get someone to listen to your ideas, they always tell you that there’s a real need in this town for a church like yours. They seem so onboard and supportive that you’re sure they’ll take the next step and offer some form of support, whether financial or participatory, money or labor. But they never seem to progress beyond offering verbal support.
So you learn to be patient.
But you can’t help being impatient. You’re on fire with your ideas, your concept. You want this thing to take shape, to become palpable. You want to go, go, go.
But no – you have to wait. It’s not time yet.
Suddenly things start falling into place – bam, bam, bam. You find someone who believes in your vision and they are not only offering verbal support, they bring their church along officially – you now have an official sponsor church for your local association.
And you’re holding worship services with your group, small though it may be. You’ve gone from a concept to a reality, your vision is becoming a tangible reality. It’s an exciting, heady time.
And then summer hits and your progress seems to stall.
Your average attendance barely budges through June, July, and August. You keep telling yourself that it’s not about numbers, that it’s the intangibles that are important. But the clock is ticking on your financial support. Even though your sponsors and partners tell you that “it’s early yet” – you’re still getting more and more and more nervous.
Because it’s all out of your control.
That’s the crux of our impatience. We want things to happen at the pace we desire. At a pace that we control. If we can control the pace – control the timeline – it means we’re in control.
But it doesn’t work on your timeline.
HE doesn’t work on your timeline.
God looks at the big picture. God knows when to make things happen. And God possesses infinite patience.
Man, I really wish he’d bless me with some that infinite patience. As a church starter, that’s a resource I can never have too much of.
Russ Jones is the pastor of Mosaic Fellowship of Belton, Texas.